On the battlefield they inspired terror, harvesting heads and glory with their swords. Their leaders wore fierce masks and horned helmets. All lived by a code that valued death over defeat. They were the samurai, the elite warrior class who ruled Japan for nearly 700 years from 1185 to 1867, leaving an indelible mark on a land still making peace with its violent heroes. Pictured here are a samurai mask and helmet on display at the Osaka Castle Museum. These photos and captions were published in the December 2003 National Geographic article "Japan's Way of the Warrior."

Samurai Mask and Helmet

On the battlefield they inspired terror, harvesting heads and glory with their swords. Their leaders wore fierce masks and horned helmets. All lived by a code that valued death over defeat. They were the samurai, the elite warrior class who ruled Japan for nearly 700 years from 1185 to 1867, leaving an indelible mark on a land still making peace with its violent heroes. Pictured here are a samurai mask and helmet on display at the Osaka Castle Museum. These photos and captions were published in the December 2003 National Geographic article "Japan's Way of the Warrior."
Photograph by Ira Block

Samurai

See photos of samurai influence in Japanese culture (including archery competitions, kabuki, martial arts, and more) in this photo gallery from National Geographic.

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